We’ve all got one. A secret, special place. Hidden. Enclosed. A little brighter and more fertile than the world outside. Here the birds are slightly more exotic, slightly more confiding, the grass greener and the fruit sweeter. To know such a place, to love such a place, is part of being human.
The Sacred Combe
The Sacred Combe, by Simon Barnes
For 32 years Simon Barnes was chief sports writer for The Times but he’s better known as one of Britain’s finest natural history writers. His latest offering, published in January, is like no other nature book you will ever read. In it, he suggests that all of us have a sacred combe buried deep in our psyche, a secret place, real or imagined in which we are at one with the natural world. For Barnes, having visited Zambia’s Luangwa Valley many years ago, nothing would ever be the same.
In this eulogy to one of Africa’s finest wildlife strongholds he describes the unending loveliness of his Paradise Found. For him, this is not a Caribbean beach and a drink with an umbrella in it. Instead, in elegant prose fizzing with wonderful imagery, he takes you deep into the soul of Luangwa, to marvel at its ebony glades, its woodland kingfishers and nights made resonant by the bellowing of lions: “a crescendo that reaches a perfect intensity and then falls away.” If this doesn’t make you want to jump onto the first plane to Lusaka, then nothing will.
Reviewed by Brian Jackman
Hardback, 222 x 145mm.
Price includes post and packaging.